Apart from the usual pig-in-a-poke signings of fringe players, the Phillies haven't done much since the Brad Lidge deal. If rumors are to be believed they have a few irons in the fire, but no names loom on the horizon that seem likely to make a big impact. Randy Wolf has apparently signed with San Diego, underscoring his preference for the West Coast and a pitcher-friendly ballpark, and Kyle Lohse, a career win-a-start/lose-a-start hurler, won't appreciably change the Phillies' fortunes. Neither will the planned platoons in right field and third base.
For numerous reasons, marquee free agents rarely appear on local radar. Pitchers shudder in horror at the prospect of toiling in Citizens Bank Park. Position players seem more interested in playing for perennial contenders than perennial wannabes. Despite their first albeit brief appearance in the post-season in fourteen years, the Phils are still viewed by some as long-shots to make it to the post-season owing to a lack of quality pitching. Lest we forget, only a collapse of legendary proportions got them to the first round of the playoffs this past October.
Management here is also something of an obstacle to filling the team's most pressing needs. Many commentators are quick to point out, with some justification, that the cumbersome number of partners who own the Phillies make for messy decision-making. Despite appearances that Dave Montgomery is the man with day-to-day authority, it cannot help that the purse strings run through several pockets. Even recent revelations that some of those pockets are truly deep does not change the picture. For whatever reasons, the Phillies' current ownership group is not willing to break the bank to bring home a winner. Perhaps the shrewd businessmen among them still believe in making a profit, but the reality is that the greatest profit today comes when a franchise is sold rather than from year-to-year revenues from television deals, licensing agreements and gate receipts. How better to increase the profit than to put a winning team on the field!
Still, the Phillies don't seem likely to reach that goal by acquisitions. A quick look at their roster and the stars within suggests the best route to the Promised Land for this franchise remains through the draft and scouting. Rollins, Hamels, Utley, Howard and Ruiz are all products of the Phillies farm system, much-maligned as it is. Maybe the best route to success is to save those tens of millions of dollars required to sign an Aaron Rowand and spend them on scouts and player development. Beating the bushes internationally is becoming increasingly important and by all appearances the Phillies have, in anything, cut back in their efforts abroad if not home. If they ever hope to get to the next level, they'd better start now by finding the future stars of the club in the high schools and colleges throughout the land and on the playing fields of Taiwan, Caracas, and everywhere in between.